A Face in the Crowd

  • Directed by Elia Kazan
  • United States, 1957, 126 mins., English

A parable about the dangers of media sensationalism, the problems with “15-minute” fame culture, and unchecked greed, Kazan’s film came at the tail end of a string of masterpieces—among them A Streecar Named Desire, On the Waterfront, and East of Eden—and is a scathing indictment of the power of the media in American culture. From a script by long-time collaborator Budd Schulberg, Face follows the meteoric rise of folk singer Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith) as he moves from local drunkard to regional celebrity to national fame (with attendant political influence) due to his magnetic personality and “folk hero” persona. Behind the scenes, Lonesome is disparaging of his fans, writing them off as easily manipulated, unintelligent masses—a viewpoint which both shocks and disappoints Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal), a producer who sprang Lonesome from prison in the first place. A film that “speaks volumes about the media’s complicit involvement with corrupt governments owned by faceless corporations. . . A Face in the Crowd is, in fact, as fresh and relevant as tomorrow’s headlines.”—Thomas Beltzer, Senses of Cinema.

Appears in: Print the Legend

Genres: Drama